WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN THE BALKANS TODAY
  • U.S. Presidential Envoy to the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien oversaw the signing of a letter of intent between Kosovo, Serbia, and Lufthansa-operated Eurowings which will see the first flights between Belgrade and Pristina in 21 years.
  • There was enthusiasm of restoring the Belgrade-Pristina line from all sides. Nevertheless, Serbia’s director for the Office of Kosovo, Marko Djuric, said that Kosovo must withdraw the 100% tariff on Serbian goods and resume the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue before any flights would take off.
  • Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expects an interesting panel with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci at the Davos World Economic Forum.
  • Kosovo President Hashim Thaci invited Vetvendosje (VV) leader Albin Kurti to form a government after VV nominated him as PM designate.
  • Kurti met on Monday  the Democratic League of Kosovo’s Isa Mustafa, but made no progress on forming a coalition. VV’s Glauk Konjufca was elected as Speaker of Parliament  on December 26th. LDK was angling for the position of Speaker of Parliament.
  • Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic attended on Monday the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union in Zagreb. He highlighted that it wasn’t fair that N. Macedonia is still in the EU’s waiting room after changing its constitution and name. Plenkovic hopes to oversee the opening of EU accession talks for Albania and N. Macedonia.
  • Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic met with British Ambassador Alison Kemp on Monday. They spoke about their strong partnership in NATO and the Montenegro-U.K. relationship post-Brexit.
  • “Slovenia is willing to cooperate in a changed Operation Sophia to the best of its abilities, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said on Monday after EU foreign ministers decided on upgrading the bloc’s military operation in the Mediterranean by shifting its focus from migrants to the arms embargo on Libya.” (STA)
  • Serbia’s Movement of Free Citizens party is set to boycott parliamentary elections this spring.
  • Speaking of elections, State Election Commission (SEC) President of N. Macedonia Oliver Derkoski says there will be changes to the electoral code before early parliamentary elections on April 12.
  • China’s Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) and Belgrade signed an agreement to build a waste water treatment facility. The expected cost of the total project will be 670 million EUR – 760 million EUR.
  • Kosovo prosecutors on Monday filed terrorism charges against an Albanian woman who allegedly joined a terror group in Syria. A statement said the defendant woman identified as V.B. left Kosovo in September 2014 together with her husband and two children. They went to neighboring Skopje, North Macedonia, and then to Turkey where they crossed the Syrian border to join the Islamic State group, authorities said.” (AP News)
  • Former policemen Zlatan Krstic and Destan Shabanaj pleaded not guilty on committing war crimes in March 1999 in Nerodime e Eperme/Donje Nerodimlje.
  • CLIMATE: “Dozens of people on Monday gathered for a protest in Sarajevo because of dangerously high levels of air pollution in the past few weeks in the Bosnian capital. Some of the participants wore face masks at the rally Monday held outside the building hosting Sarajevo’s government. Organizers say they want to encourage people into action and draw public attention to the decades-old problem typical for the city that is squeezed in a deep valley among the mountains.” (AP News)

 

  • CLIMATE: Slovenia looks to add a tax on air polluting vehicles. In Sarajevo, foreign ambassadors and diplomats met with Sarajevo Canton PM Edin Forto to discuss the air pollution issue.

 

  • CRIME: Two Montenegrins with criminal records were gunned down in Athens in apparent gang activity related to drug distribution. Srebrenica Street in Paris was vandalized with graffiti that said “Free Ratko Mladic” and the Serbian cross.

 

 

IN OTHER NEWS…
  • PAPER: “A New Anglo-American Partnership for the Western Balkans” by Richard Kramer and Reuf Bajrovic in US-Europe Alliance: “At this historical juncture, the U.S. and the U.K. are uniquely positioned to ensure greater transatlantic security and prosperity for the region. London and Washington should jointly engage in a proactive, robust program to militarily and economically fortify our NATO allies and transitioning democracies in the Western Balkans”